CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/FORD ENNALS - Lloyds TSB's smiling assassin prepares to strike. Ford Ennals is gearing up to drop Saatchis for Rainey Kelly, Jenny Watts reveals

It's not often in adland that agencies have the chance to tilt for

an account of the stature of Lloyds TSB's, so much licking of lips

greeted November's news that the £36 million business was in

play.



Now, that much prized piece of business appears to be within the grasp

of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

waiting in the wings should its rival fall at the final hurdle.



The final decision will rest with Ford Ennals, the director of group

customer management at Lloyds TSB and the man behind the review out of

the four-year incumbent, Saatchi & Saatchi. Ennals has been described by

agencies as a smiling assassin and stories circulate of him being

difficult and not the most popular of clients.



"He's been a very demanding client in every sense," says one source who

has worked before with the ex-Unilever, Reebok and British Airways

marketing chief.



Still, Ennals has historically extracted credible work from his

agencies, and called this review in a bid to find "fresh insight" for

the Lloyds TSB brand, saying: "Now and again it's worthwhile looking

outside - you've got to be careful not to lose your perspective."



According to Ennals, Lloyds TSB "wanted to go another stage of

development with a more product-focused campaign". Saatchis, it seems,

was never really in the running. "I never felt on the product side that

the work was on a par with the brand work," Ennals admits of Saatchis'

efforts - while insiders say the agency had a few attempts at the brief

before it was acknowledged it couldn't crack it.



Saatchis' outgoing executive chairman Tamara Ingram's proximity to the

business has also been one of the main reasons mooted for the departure

of the account. There is a story circulating that Ingram, now at

McCann-Erickson, knew about the loss only ten minutes after Saatchis'

chief executive, James Hall, found out. However, Ennals denies Ingram's

exit played an integral part in the review, saying she was part of an

exodus that triggered the decision. "We had a stable core team for three

years, but across the year of 2001, for reasons out of Saatchis'

control, there were personnel changes across the business," he says.



Still, industry observers point out that Saatchis has been running out

of road with Lloyds TSB for some time and that Ennals' relationship with

the agency was its only saving grace. "The relationship has helped them

survive what's been a succession of average ads that haven't really cut

through or given them a strong positioning," one observer says.



RKCR/Y&R and AMV have ideas of their own to give the brand a definite

positioning. Rainey Kelly's is said to involve the actress Cathy Burke

and, subject to her participation, it's believed the agency will secure

the business. AMV's idea reportedly mirrors the stages of financial

maturation with that of a young foal growing into a horse. Should Burke

not play ball, AMV could still canter over the finish line.



The immediate prize is a business banking project, and depending on how

that goes, Ennals enigmatically says, "there will be the opportunity to

pick up further work". Indications are that this could mean curtains for

Saatchis; however, Ennals insists the agency will remain on the roster

for now.



Whatever the reasons behind moving the new campaign out of Saatchis, the

fact remains that Lloyds TSB is being forced to react by better-marketed

products and more aggressive marketing campaigns from its

competitors.



Financial services advertising remains of low interest to most people,

although a growing diversion in current account interest rates is

starting to shake customers out of their inertia. Ennals says: "Our

challenge is to present ourselves as a single brand. Before we were two

very disparate brands. We need to be a lot more specific about what

we're offering."



Doubtless Lloyds TSB has learnt from Barclays, whose headline-grabbing

"big" campaign might have had the "wow" factor but suffered because

consumers failed to see how it fitted in with their everyday

experiences. The M&C Saatchi work for NatWest was possibly more

successful as a piece of repositioning, despite customer complaints that

it was misleading. It is Halifax, though, that has most shaken up the

financial services market with its upbeat, headline-grabbing FMCG

approach.



"Halifax has done a good job of identifying one proposition and being

focused and consistent," Ennals agrees.



Competition has been further intensified by the emergence of a

Government-backed watchdog, which is compelling banks to make it easier

for customers to move their accounts.



Ennals plays down the significance of this legislation. "In July last

year we'd already put in place a service that will move the account in

three days, not ten," he says. "I don't think it will change what we do.

There's just a much greater level of media noise around the category

now."



So what will Lloyds TSB's strategy be this year? "To significantly

improve service so we have a competitive advantage," he replies.

Diversifying into the energy market by making a major push into gas,

electricity and telecoms may help, but it's imperative the bank raises

its marketing game in the face of such strong competition.



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